A few months ago, I joked with a neighbor that if the NSA hacked into my Samsung TV and wanted to listen to me, some analyst would only hear me shouting, “Stop wailing on each other.” Because, being brothers, my two boys’ arguments are frequently settled with fists.
When news alerts blasted that there was a shooting at the GOP congressional baseball practice last Wednesday, I paused. A friend played for the team and he and his staff were probably on that field. (Thank goodness they were all safe.)
Later that afternoon, the world saw a hate-filled Facebook page from someone who decided it was “Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” And, like my pre-adolescent boys, he resorted to violence as an outlet for misdirected, nebulous anger. Shortly after the shooting, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) tweeted something that I have preached since 2010: “We must address the seeming anger of so many Americans with a caring spirit and action for their basic needs. We must heal this Nation.”
We — as Americans, as a society, as rational adults — must address the anger in this country. We must address it quickly.
We have largely brought this on ourselves. Too many of us seek some sort of impossible ideological purity when we go to the polls. We elevate the inflammatory talking heads to the best-seller list. We click through to dubious websites and inflate their profitability, forcing them to “report” even more outrageous (and truly) fake news. We have blithely cheapened words with very serious meanings such as “hate,” “treason,” and “revolution.”
Forget the rhetoric about Obamacare: This hyper-partisanship is our nation’s true death spiral.
I’ve written about this several times before (notably in the aftermath of last year’s North Carolina Republican office firebombing), and I’m writing about this again:
- We must address the concept that if you disagree with me you hate America. When you leave the cheap seats and spend time working in government, you quickly learn there are really good people on both sides of the aisle. When I worked for the Republicans, some of my best friends were Democrats. (And every dedicated politico has the same story.) You lean on them in your professional life to be sure you’re not going too far to your ideological corner. We should do the same in our personal lives.
- We must remember that good, intelligent people can have philosophical differences. That doesn’t mean they (insert invective here: hate poor people/are a communist/love Hitler/hate the planet, etc.). Good, intelligent people can come to different conclusions based on the same objective facts. Politicians should take a page from scientists in this regard.
- We must address the concept that compromise is weakness. Nearly all of the great advances our country has made over the past 241 years were bipartisan compromises. You must have a broad, bipartisan coalition to get any lasting change accomplished. If you don’t compromise, you’ll never find the broad, bipartisan coalition.
- We must address voter apathy. Voters need to show up to the polls no matter how they feel about the candidates. If you don’t vote, you will never elect someone you like.
- We must address a media climate that glorifies commentators who don’t know what they’re talking about. Stop voting with your eyeballs for infotainment media that relies on anonymous sources and unsubstantiated reports. If you stop clicking, advertisers will stop buying, and websites will cease to exist. Stop spreading fake news (fake news doesn’t inflame partisan passions if nobody shares it). Head back to trusted media outlets and read multiple outlets. If it is from TrumpisPutinsLover.com or HillaryisReallyaPedophile.com, it’s not real, folks. Stop sharing it. Please.
- We must address the keyboard bullies. Stop retweeting idiots. And if you feel like you have to comment on something, be a real man (or woman) and put your name on it.
As the head of government affairs for 11 chambers of commerce across the Upstate, I strive to represent the pragmatic “sane middle” in our communities. It’s not always an easy place to be, but the business community can — and must — step up and lead the vast majority of moderate, left-leaning, and right-leaning voters. Today.
As the parent of two young boys who will inherit this mess in a decade or so, we all have a chance to stop this before it taints another generation’s vision of our great country.
Jason Zacher is the vice president of business advocacy for the Greenville Chamber and the executive director of the Upstate Chamber Coalition.